On November 22nd, 2015, the Columbus Crew were hosting the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of a two-game MLS Cup Conference Finals matchup. In the 85th minute of a grueling, back-and-forth competition, clinging to a one goal lead, the Crew were looking to grind out a crucial win in front of their home fans at Mapfre Stadium. In the freezing November temperatures, those fans had something a little more to cheer for in that moment, because their superstar forward, Kei Kamara, tapped in a tantalizing deflection into the New York goal to give Columbus a 2-0 lead. That would eventually be enough to cap off one of the most memorable nights in the city’s sports history.
Kei Kamara was born on September 1st, 1984, in Kenema (the third largest city of Sierra Leone). At the age of 16, Kamara and his family immigrated to the United States, and would settle with relatives in the city of Hawthorne, California (about 25 minutes southwest of Los Angeles). Kamara would play soccer at California State University, Dominguez Hill. In his sophomore season, he was named a third team All-American. After his college career, Kamara would star for the Orange County Blue Stars in the USL Premier League Development program. He was the team’s top scorer, with 12 goals in 14 starts.
In 2006, the same year in which he earned his U.S. Citizenship, Kamara was selected by the Columbus Crew with the ninth overall pick in that year’s MLS Superdraft. He would spend two years in his first stint with Columbus, making 36 appearances and scoring five goals. Kamara would spend the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, until he had the opportunity to play overseas. After an eventful few years in the English Premier League with Norwich City and Middlesbrough, Kamara headed back across the Atlantic, and to the United States. On October 7th, 2014, he returned to Ohio and signed with Columbus. Thanks to a smooth process with his International Transfer Certificate, Kamara was officially a member of the team’s roster on January 1st, 2015. That year would be his breakout season with Columbus. Kamara would lead the team to 15 regular season victories, the most they had won in three years. The Crew would finish in second place in the MLS Eastern Conference that year, and the success for Kamara would continue to mount. He would finish as the joint-top scorer of the league (alongside Sebastian Giovinco of Toronto FC), with 22 total goals. Kamara would also be one of three finalists for the 2015 MLS Landon Donovan MVP Award.
Although the Crew would eventually fall short in the 2015 MLS Cup Final, it solidified Kei Kamara’s illustrious soccer career. He is now a member of the Colorado Rapids soccer club, and has already notched 15 more goals with his new squad. It just shows how lethal this forward from Sierra Leone can truly be.